(Photo: Reuters/Mike Cassese)
Nik Wallenda, the Christian acrobat – self-described "King of the High Wire" – who crossed the Grand Canyon with a prayer on his lips last Sunday, announced his next big feat: the New York City Skyline.
"My dream is to do a big walk right here in New York City, that would be quite amazing," Wallenda said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday. He told the network he plans "to walk across from the Empire State Building to the Chrysler Building."
This walk would measure around three-quarters of a mile, 4,000 feet – three times the length of the Grand Canyon walk. It would also take him 9,000 feet above the Big Apple. Wallenda plans to do it without a net.
"The only walk I've ever used a tether or a net – and I've done many of these around the world – is that walk over Niagara Falls," he said.
That feat – his largest claim to fame – took two years of strategic planning, "which included geological surveys, engineering feats and political lobbying of U.S. and Canadian officials to change laws in both countries that, for the past 116 years, banned daredevil stunts at Niagara Falls," according to his website, nikwallenda.com.
This historic June 15, 2012 feat brought 13.3 million American viewers to ABC, "garnering the highest rating for a non-sports broadcast of any network in six years." His Grand Canyon walk Sunday proved another high-rating success, bringing the Discovery Channel 12.98 million viewers – the network's best ratings night since July 2010. It also generated 1.3 million tweets and over 2.1 million streams on SkywireLive.com.
"Thank you Lord. Thank you for calming that cable, God," Wallenda said, as he crossed the 1,400-foot long, 2-inch wide high-wire 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River. Evangelical Christian minister Joel Osteen quoted him as saying, "this is the way I'm supposed to use my gifts, I feel, is to bring glory to God."
"We recreated winds with wind machines," Wallenda explained to Fox. This training enabled the faith-focused acrobat to withstand gusts said to have hit 30 mph, during his 22-minute death-defying leap across the gorge.
Death-defying, indeed, Wallenda leaped over the very spot where his great grandfather fell to his death. "My great grandfather fell to his death in 1978 walking between two buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico," he told Fox News. "I had the honor of going back, with my mother, and both of us walked in that exact area, a cable."
"She walked out to the middle, sat down right where he had fallen, and I walked over her," he said.
When the incredulous anchor asked why he kept risking his life, he explained, "we've learned a lot from those accidents." He had rescue teams stationed on either side of the wire, and a huge support group of Christians praying for his safety.
After Wallenda announced his plan to walk the horizon of the Big Apple, New York officials dismissed the idea.
"I would say no," police commissioner Ray Kelly told The Associated Press. "I think it's dangerous." While that consideration clearly would not stop Wallenda, Kelly added, "there's thousands of New Yorkers who certainly could be put at risk."
Kelly reinforced his opinion firmly. "I don't think it would be wise in this city." The Atlantic Wire reported that "Wallenda said on Sunday that he's only attempt the walk with city approval, so there's little chance that he'll pull a Philippe Petit and just do it anyway."
But since Wallenda changed the Niagara laws in the United States and Canada, this denial may not weaken the tightrope walker's resolve.